U.S. Supreme Court Hears Ministerial Exception Case, 5 October 2011

Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC was argued in the Supreme Court on October 5, 2011. The transcript of the oral argument is available here[Amicus brief for the Petitioner submitted by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies available here.] Judgment is expected some time later this year.

17 October 2011.  Religion case opens term for high court. (Joan Frawley Desmond, National Catholic Register)

11 October 2011. Kagan balks at Obama EEOC claim of authority over churches. (Ken Klukowski, The Washington Examiner)

10 October 2011. Religious liberty and the ministerial exception. (Justin Dyer, The Witherspoon Institute)

7 October 2011. Supreme Court asks: could discrimination claim force female priests? (Benjamin Mann, Catholic News Agency)

7 October 2011. Why Catholic bishops are targeting Obama on religious freedom. (Amy Sullivan, Time)

6 October 2011. IMB, ERLC urge Court to protect church rights. (Tom Strode, Baptist Press)

6 October 2011. The Obama administration, religious freedom, and the Supreme Court. (Damon Root, Reason.com Blog) Quoting A Religious Clash, Walter Olson, The Daily Caller Opinion)

6 October 2011. Religious freedom under attack in the Supreme Court. (Thomas Messner, The Foundry)

6 October 2011. Supreme Court struggles with church-state case. (David Savage, Los Angeles Times)

5 October 2011. Supreme Court debates church and state boundary in fired teacher’s case. (Robert Barnes, The Washington Post)

5 October 2011. Opposing view: Government shouldn’t pick ministers. (Luke Goodrich, USA Today)

5 October 2011.  An encouraging morning for religious freedom. (Richard W. Garnett, National Review Online)

30 September 2011.  Supreme Court to consider whether churches can hire, fire without government interference. (Rob Kerby, Senior Editor, BeliefNet)

30 September 2011. U.Va. law professor to argue religious employment discrimination case before Supreme Court Oct. 5 (Media Newswire)

24 September 2011. Article by Michael DeGroote of the Deseret News, quoting ICLRS Managing Director Robert T. Smith.

21 September 2011.  Analysis by Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle, published by the Pew Research Center:  In Brief: The Supreme Court Takes Up Church Employment Disputes and the “Ministerial Exception”: Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

28 March 2011 – Washington, D.C.

The Supreme Court of the United States has on 28 March 2011 agreed to hear Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, a case that has been called “the most important religious freedom case in two decades.”  The case concerns whether a religious school can claim a “ministerial exception” to a discrimination charge brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act by a teacher, dismissed for insubordination, who taught primarily secular subjects. In a unanimous 2010 opinion a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled against the school, observing that the “legislative history makes clear that Congress intended the ADA to broadly protect employees of religious entities from retaliation on the job, subject only to narrowly drawn religious exemption.”

From the Petitioner’s Reply Brief:  “Respondents do not dispute the propriety of the ministerial exception or its core rationale that courts should not decide who will perform the ministerial functions of religious organizations. They do not claim that the ministerial exception is confined only to pastors of congregations. Rather, they dispute the exception’s boundaries.”

Who is a minister? Who decides?  In the face of conflicts in the circuits and in Supreme Court precedent, petitioner brings the question of the scope of the ministerial exception before the Court.